Ashes To Ashes (A Letter To My Mum)

A LETTER TO MY DEAR, LATE MUM

Dearest Mum,

I am writing this letter six years after you left this world. I hope you are in a better place now. I have written to you several times since your death as I buy a card for each birthday and Mother’s Day. I go to an old-fashioned teashop in town and order a pot of tea with toast, and marmalade, just like you had for breakfast every morning. I feel your presence as I write loving words to you. I imagine you are sitting on the other side of my table, and I talk to you, in my mind, about all the happy times we had together. I keep the cards in my bedside drawer along with the keepsakes that I chose from your belongings, including your pale blue and white checked shirt that you wore so often. It was worn thin and frayed at the cuffs and collar because you didn’t want to pay for a new one. You were raised to make do and mend like many of your generation.

I’ve written to you before about your moving but beautiful funeral. It was a celebration of your life as much as it was saying goodbye to you.

A couple of weeks later, in the middle of January, it was your interment. It was chilly and overcast, and a few spots of rain had begun to fall. I felt anxious that day, not knowing what to expect, not having attended an interment before. I had travelled the forty miles from home to Golders Green Cemetery and met Jill, a year younger than me, who was already there. She had flown over from Australia. We called in at the Reception Office to let them know we were there and waited for my other sisters, Lindsay, Anna, and your sister, Ellen, to arrive.

Twenty minutes later, they’d all arrived, with Anna and Lindsay carefully carrying a sturdy but pretty box with your ashes. It was painted with an image of a beautiful garden in summer – blue sky, lush green grass and pink and yellow flowers. We had chosen it carefully because you were always so passionate about your neat and tidy garden. It was where you loved to be at every opportunity. It seemed only fitting. You wouldn’t have wanted a dark, sombre urn to leave this world in.

Shortly, the graveyard attendant took us to the place where you were to be laid to rest. One by one, shedding quiet tears, we said our goodbyes to you as the box was gently lowered into the ground. As the last of the earth was thrown into the plot, what felt like a miracle or sign happened. Just as we were laying our carefully-chosen pebbles on your grave, as is the custom in Jewish cemeteries, the rain stopped, and the dark clouds in the sky cleared. We gazed upwards to see bright sunshine and a blue sky. Despite it being January, the sun was surprisingly warm. As we looked around, we saw lots of butterflies (a couple of Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral and several Cabbage Whites). Then, we heard the buzzing of bumble bees and watched as they collected nectar from the daisies surrounding your place of rest.

There was an old, battered wooden bench nearby. We sat side-by-side, gazing around at the signs of nature that had come to pay its respects and to say goodbye to you. As we left the cemetery, the sky clouded over again, the chill wind returned, and a few drops of rain fell onto the windscreen of Lindsay’s car as we left. I’m sure it was a higher power that had sent us those joyful moments amidst the sadness of our loss. I’m sure you would have felt the same had you still been with us.

I miss you very much, Mum, but I’ll never forget the special times we had together and the many, many conversations we had on the phone. You were always there for me through thick and thin, and I was always there for you, too. I am eternally grateful to you. You will be forever in my heart and my mind.

With all my fondest love,

Ellie xxx 💝

Photo by Mariya: https://www.pexels.com/

Hands Off

Today the sky is black as coal
My mind has crawled inside a hole
He took away my heart and soul
Please, lock him up with no parole

~~~

I was only eight and very shy
And was it any wonder why
I’d never scream; I’d never cry
When after, in your bed, I’d lie

~~~

I didn’t want to play his game
He told me that I was to blame
He left me with the deepest shame
I’d like to tell the world your name

~~~

What he did was so taboo
Tucked away and out of view
Thought you’d get away, did you?
Karma will tell false from true

~~~

This isn’t who I want to be
He stole my innocence; can you see
I couldn’t run; I couldn’t flee
Just get your filthy hands off me.

Passage of Time

Please forgive my indulgence in sharing this poem with you. I thought long and hard about publishing it, even writing it initially. This post follows my two previous ones, Dissociative Healing and Brave. They are all a part of the process.

I’m aware that my posts, mainly poems, of late, have been dark. I’m currently working through my thoughts and feelings about this with my counsellor. She is helping a lot, and I know I will get through this before too long. However, today, I needed to write this straight out of my heart, which is where all my writing comes from. It’s the only way I know how to write.

My intention is not to cause distress to any of my readers, although I’m aware that others may possibly have been through such traumatic experiences.


Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick
The metronome ticks the minutes away
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick
It regularly beats without a delay

She hears it, hears it, hears it now
All the way from childhood days
No choice for her but fear and pain
To come and go from this toxic place

Come day, come week, come every month
Nothing ever changed
Come birthdays, Christmas, year on year
Becoming more deranged

She trod on the cracks along the road
She’ll be punished for that, to be sure
Nearer and nearer she’d get
Ringing the bell on the the door

Waiting, waiting, waiting for time
Knowing she’s headed downstairs
Panic, fear and desperation
He’ll be seated on one of the chairs

She’s greeted by the metronome
Knowing what’s in store
She’s swallowing down the terror
And tightly clenching her jaw

She’s beckoned within, the time has come
The door bangs behind her – it’s shut
The bolt is shot, and she’s trapped inside
As she’s made to be the slut

Come, come, come sit on my knee
Just you do as you’re told
Her heartbeat faster and faster
She’s only eight years old

Don’t tell, don’t tell, don’t tell a soul
They’ll be trouble if you do
So she silenced herself right there and then
Not knowing this was taboo

After years passed, the news got out
Not from her but another source
Someone else told their story
He denied it all, of course

The police were called immediately
Spoke to her Mum and her Dad
She was frozen solid to the core
Because she’d been told she was bad

She didn’t want to cause any trouble
She silently tucked it inside
The grown-ups shrugged their shoulders
While she crept up to her room and died.




 












Best Foot Forward …

The only photo of me in the flesh that you’re likely to ever see! I’m shy.
Make the most of it – it’s not likely to happen again 😉!

I thought I’d give you a little background information about my disability. It’s not something I’ve previously spoken about much in my blog, so this is my story.

I started life as an able-bodied little girl who did all the usual activities that young children do. I was always small, skinny and underweight, but there were advantages to being as I was. I could shin up the gym apparatus faster than many children in my class. Considering I was sometimes thought of as a weed, I did pretty well. I grew up, married, had my two children, Tom and Clare, and then my ex left. I continued to raise the children alone and also had to work to bring some money in for us to live on. It was a tough time, but I was very content. Between school runs, the children’s football matches and netball, I was a carer and home help for ten years (I’d initially trained as a secretary and worked in the City of London for several years). I combined my work which I loved, with caring for Tom and Clare; we were a very happy little family.

When the children were about thirteen and eleven, I saved enough to take them to the funfair in town (Essex in the UK). It was there that I had my accident which was to change the course of my life.
When our carriage crashed, I felt a tremendous jolt that jarred my neck and spine. Eventually, after a lengthy spell in hospital (with my children staying with my Mum) and with many tests, x-rays, scans and examinations, the doctors decided I’d damaged the nerve endings leading from my spine. They said it was permanent. It was an awful lot to come to terms with, but over time, I grew, not so much to accept it but more to live my life despite it. I wasn’t about to give in easily. The pain was awful, though, and I was on morphine for quite a while. It wasn’t all bad – I was away with the fairies much of the time 😄!

Fast forward twenty years. It was recommended that I have a DEXA Scan as osteoporosis was suspected, given that I’d always been small-boned, had experienced a few years previously with anorexia, and being unable to exercise very often. When I got my results, I was unsure who was more shocked, the radiographer or me. My T-scores were appallingly low. A score of -2.5 indicates osteoporosis, but mine was -4.5, which meant I had severe osteoporosis.

Degrees of osteoporosis
Mine is severe, meaning there is more air space (in brown) and very little solid bone (shown in beige). It’s a wonder I haven’t entirely disintegrated!!

I was told I could die if I fractured my hip or be left even more disabled if I injured my spine. I have to admit I was scared – very scared. Every move I made seemed risky, and I lived in fear for a while. I became super-careful with everything I did, but two years ago, I tripped over Peanut (my new cat) while transferring from my wheelchair to my walking frame. There I was being rushed off to Accident & Emergency for the second time. I was in agony. I’ve never felt pain like it. After all the x-rays and scans came back, the doctors announced that I’d broken my pelvis, not once, not twice, but in six different places. I don’t do things by halves. If I’m going to have an accident, I’ve got to do it in style!

Strangely enough, contrary to what most people would think, I don’t have any regrets; I’m not angry or bitter or in the least bit dissatisfied with my life. I am who I am. Without the experiences I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be Ellie.

My next post (Part Two) will be about my journey back to good health and where I intend to go from here on in.

Okay … these aren’t my legs, but just an indication of where I go next on my journey. Look out for part two.

The Missing Mum Years

My childhood home

This is my dear late Mum’s house as it stands now. It was my childhood home until I married at twenty years of age and moved out. I’ve been reminiscing about this house over the last couple of days. One of my sisters had been back to visit there recently. Although she advised me against it, I asked her to share her photo with me. Big mistake! Huge mistake, in fact. It’s no longer how I remember it. Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey. The window frames have all been painted stark white over the original orange. Orange was Mum’s favourite colour. The steps outside are also not visible in this photo. The neat box hedge has completely overgrown, as has the glorious pink azalea shrub. I feel so sad. I shouldn’t have asked to see this photo. I should have known it would be different now, six years after losing my Mum. I still miss her so much. I always will.

The steps at the front of the house were a barrier for me for the last four years before Mum passed away. Being a wheelchair user now, there was no way I could climb them to get into the house. To make matters worse, Mum was severely agoraphobic, which meant she couldn’t leave there. It meant that we didn’t see each other for all that time. It broke my heart (and hers). We spoke on the phone a lot, especially towards the end. I would call two or three times a day to check she was okay. She mainly was as fit as a fiddle … until she had her stroke. Before that happened, she would vigorously mow the grass, raking it up, digging and planting flowers and tomatoes.

Those last four years were so painful. I didn’t feel sorry myself; I never did, but I felt angry and frustrated about my disability stopping me from seeing her. It was hard to come to terms with, and we missed each other terribly. The only time I got to see her in those last years was when, towards the end, she was admitted to hospital after her stroke. Hospitals are nearly always accessible. She was never the same after that happened. I wrote a post about this at the time. You can read about it at https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/.

I’m glad I can’t see the inside of the house; it must be so different now, and it would only upset me further. The kitchen was always my favourite room. The kitchen units were orange, as was her one-person teapot, which sat permanently on the side waiting to be filled. She loved her cups of tea and her toast and marmalade, which she’d have for breakfast every morning. After we lost Mum, there were all the usual formalities to arrange; the funeral, the interment, the house to sort out etc. My sisters came from various parts of the country to deal with all this, but I had no choice, being unable to go up those damn steps. My sisters were very kindly involving me as much as possible by taking pictures of everything, so I could decide what I’d like to have. I chose Mum’s little orange teapot. It reminded me so much of her.

Mum’s orange teapot sitting comfortably on my kitchen windowsill

I have a tradition now. Every year, on Mum’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, I take myself off to a quaint tea shop in my city. I order myself a pot of tea (I usually drink coffee) and some toast and marmalade. Sometimes, I order a slice of cake – Mum always enjoyed her cake. Having recently bought the loveliest card I could find in John Lewis, I sit for a couple of hours and write to her. I write it as a conversation between us, just as if she were there with me, drinking tea and eating toast or cake. It makes me feel closer to her at those times. I wish she were still here to join me. But, however much I write, it’ll never make up for those four years when I couldn’t see her. I missed so much of her later life. I think I’ll always miss her – the pain doesn’t lessen. Perhaps, it will in time.

Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier

At the beginning of March, I wrote a post about my holiday to Southend-on-Sea during the summer of 2018 – https://elliethompson.uk/2022/03/06/sunnier-climes-part-1/ . This is the continuation of that experience.

Seven Hotel – Southend-on-Sea

It was a beautiful day in July when I set off from the rather plush Seven Hotel and headed for the pier. The train that went almost the length of it hadn’t started running yet as I’d set off very early in the morning. It was the hottest day we’d had in the UK for three years at over 33 degrees, and I’d thought I’d get out before the peak of the heat hit. As I sped off in my electric wheelchair, George, the welcome breeze swept through my hair. It was exhilarating, and I was soon at the halfway point. I looked back at the distance I’d travelled and admired the view. The sky was hazy with the heat, but the sea was blue. The gleaming white buildings, hotels and apartments were in the distance now.

The view from Southend Pier.

I trundled across the pier’s wooden planks, thoroughly enjoying myself with the seagulls flying high above me, squawking loudly. The café was right at the end, and I thought I’d stop there and grab some breakfast and a coffee. Twenty minutes later, when I’d almost reached my destination, the clackety-clack of the wood below my wheels began to sound odd. The planks were old and worn in some places but perfectly sound. After a few more metres, the noise became louder. I wasn’t too concerned and had my eye on the sign at the end. I stopped to take this photo. It read …

Congratulations. You’ve reached the end of Southend Pier.

I could see the café up ahead and was looking forward to my breakfast. I was nearly there. I went to set off again when I suddenly realised that something was wrong. My wheelchair was leaning to one side. I looked down, and there was a completely flat tyre. What a place to get a puncture! Now, what do I do?

I turned to look over my shoulder and saw a couple behind me, although quite some way back. I waved at them frantically. To my dismay, they seemed to assume I was simply being friendly and waved back at me! As they got nearer, they could see my predicament and stopped to offer their help. I had no idea how I would get back to the land end of the pier.

Southend Pier – the longest pier in the world at 2.16 kilometres

The couple said they’d go to the café to get assistance, and soon, they returned with a manual wheelchair. I transferred into it, but there was still the dilemma of what to do with my chair. I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it. The only thing to do was push my chair, George, onto the train with me by his side and head back to land. A great idea, but there was a problem. The goods carriage was the only space big enough to take my chair, and that was filled with crates of wine bottles and beer for the café. There was no option but to unload it all onto the platform. The guard was not impressed! Finally, they got me on the train and back to terra firma. I then had to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the breakdown vehicle came and rescued me, brought me back to my hotel and whipped George off to have a new tyre.

I can laugh about it now, but that’s one holiday I shall never forget!

Coffee and Cake

(Photo credit: Simone’s Kitchen)

I wanted to share this poem in dedication to my dear friend, Jenna, who I’ve known for over thirty years. I worked as a home help (before I became disabled) for her and her husband with their three older children when I was a single divorced parent who brought up my two young children alone. I loved being at her house – it was a grand Georgian house with a sweeping staircase and mahogany panelled walls in the hallway, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work there. Lots to clean with all the nooks and crannies. We’d sit for an hour in the middle of my morning talking about all and sundry. I always made my coffee time up working later than my allotted time there. She was always there for me, and I for her.

About four years ago, having lost her husband and two older boys tragically, she moved down to the south coast to be near her daughter and granddaughter. She’s now living in a little cottage almost on the beach. She loves it there, and I’m so pleased for her. That’s not to say I don’t miss her very much because I do. She no longer drives, and I’m unable to visit her because of the distance and lack of accessibility of transport. She’s eighty-three now and becoming frailer in her old age. It worries me greatly as just recently, she’s started to deteriorate. I dread anything happening to her.

COFFEE AND CAKE

I miss the times we sat together
Over your heavy pine table
We drank coffee and ate dainty madeleines
As I poured out my troubled heart to you

That time spent together
Strengthened and deepened our friendship
We cannot sit there any longer
But, my friend, my memories are so fond

You saw me through my best and worst
Through a close-shave house move
Through damaging relationships
You soothed me as my mental health declined

You never once judged me, never criticized
Quietly there amid your own turmoil
And coffee and cake became a sigh of relief
Time to stop and share both joys and tears

Now, so far away with miles between us
You by the sea and me still in town
We still speak for hours, not every day
Perhaps, once or twice a week

We never tire of things to speak of
Often, putting the world to rights
We talk of our children, some lost, some grown
Partners and mothers long since passed

We talk and talk endlessly
I feel that I witness your life
In its goodness and its pain
As you too, witness mine

Our extended phone calls
Prove those miles between us
Hardly matter at all
But, my dear friend, I would give my all to see you again.

© Copyright Ellie Thompson 2022

Wars – so futile – my family’s ‘blood’*

WHEN … HOW … IF ONLY …

I am almost lost for words so I’m borrowing the Jimi Hendrix quote …

“WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE OVERCOMES THE LOVE OF POWER, THE WORLD WILL KNOW PEACE”.

I’ve wanted to write about my feelings over this war. I wanted to write something worthwhile, something moving, poetic perhaps but I feel nothing I can say can do enough justice to this situation and the terrible suffering of the Ukraine people. I’ve been so lost for words that all I can do is to write what is in my heart …

This Russia – Ukraine war … any war … is futile. It’s awful, appalling and totally heartbreaking. I watch the news on television a couple of times a day; I hear the news on the radio – every hour and it just gets worse and worse; it gets more and more terrifying and horrific and I fear for the innocent and brave Ukraine people. However, I’m trying to take a break from the news today because it’s beginning to break me but I feel guilty at not keeping up with the latest developments knowing that the situation is likely to get worse. I feel helpless to do anything other than to send money which I have done. All war is brutal and barbaric.

The Second World War broke out on my birth date in September 1939. I wasn’t born then but so many of my family members were. My birth religion is Jewish; my grandparents and the generations before them lived in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Hungary. They were caught up in the war when Adolf Hitler invaded and began to send the Jews to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. All Jews were made to wear armbands with their religious sign of The Star of David on them. This included my family. This is their story …

The Jewish people were made to wear this badge on their armbands. It’s the Star of David (their religious symbol). This was so they could be easily recognised and made targets of.

Many of my family members died in the horrific and inhumane internment camps in Auschwitz. There are chunks of my family tree that are missing. We’ll never know how our family died other than to say it would have been an atrocious and pitiless ending of their totally innocent lives. It hurts me to think about it and yet somehow, it helps to ‘talk’ here. I should say, it’s definitely not my aim to upset of offend anyone reading this.

One of my grandmothers (and my grandfather) was living in London with my mother and her sister (my aunt). My grandmother chose to remain in London, running a terminus café for the bus drivers to enable to get people around. Fortunately, their house, nearby, wasn’t bombed as so much of London was. The school over the road was hit but was, at the time, empty of children, thank the Lord. My Mother was eight-years-old and got evacuated to the country for safety. She wasn’t happy and missed being with her mother and my aunt who stayed together in London. My aunt stayed home being only a baby at the time. My Mum had been sent to stay with an elderly couple with no children. They treated her badly because they’d been forced to take a child off the trains but didn’t want to. My Mother had many miserable years there. She was forced to go to a church which practised a different religion to her own.

When my Mum was alive (up until six years ago), she talked of those times. She talked of bomb shelters in the garden; of hiding in basements, (a painful parallel with the besieged Ukrainians now). She talked of rationing when a banana was like Christmas come early. However, she never talked of our missing ‘blood.’*

When I lost my Mum in 2016, my sisters and I decided that I would take all the family photos to sort through them to share them with my sisters. These photos have been sitting up in the spare room ever since. There must be a hundred, at least – I can’t bear the thought of going through them knowing that our missing relatives will be painfully and obviously absent. My sisters are very understanding and supportive which is a blessing. I will do it one day … I owe it to them … I will … when I’m ready …

*’blood’ refers to the blood of our family, our past, our history, our ancestors.

Sunnier Climes – Part 1

Could be anywhere, couldn’t it? It’s actually Southend-on-Sea – 2018

Southend comes in for an awful lot of stick. Anyone in Essex, UK, will probably know this fact. It’s often known for its levels of crime, often violence and perhaps, even thought of as a rough and scruffy seaside town. However, I just love it!

My story here is an account of my holiday in the summer of 2018. Having not had a holiday for over 15 years, this was to be quite an adventure! I’d packed up ready to set off; the large rucksack on the back of my wheelchair, (called George back then), bursting at the seams. I must have resembled ‘the bag lady’ as I set off with bags hanging off of every arm and projection on my wheelchair. I was determined to ‘go it alone’ and without any help or support. This sense of independence meant a heck of a lot to me.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the train station. The guard brought the ramp so that I could get on. The carriage was packed with animated holiday makers all heading for the coast to make the most of the beautiful sunshine. It was a scorching July that year and I was so excited and eager to get to get there. Two exhausting changes of train later, I arrived at my hotel. It was a pretty smart place and I stood out ‘like a sore thumb’ with my scruffy carrier bags packed to the hilt with everything I needed. Nevertheless, the proprietor and his wife were extremely polite, well-spoken and very warm and welcoming. I checked in, bundled into the small lift and was shown up to my room. I was surprised at how plush it was; roomy too, so plenty of space to park George for charging. The sun streamed through the window and my view from there overlooked the sea (see photo above). Golden Samphire grew out of the cliff face adding to this beautiful picture and I wasn’t far away from the Cliff Lift which had a scarily sheer drop to the promenade . Twenty minutes later, I’d unpacked; gone down to the bar for a refreshing glass of tonic water with elderflower (my favourite ‘tipple’ as I don’t drink alcohol) and headed for the beach.

The beach was gorgeous; certainly to me not having had a whiff of fresh, salty air for so many years. I so wished I could have gone for a paddle or felt the stony sand between my toes. This was a bit difficult when using an electric wheelchair, so it had to remain a dream of mine. However, not for one minute deterred I drove along the prom taking in the sights and smells – stalls selling hot doughnuts, pink candy floss, chips and burgers. There were stalls laden with buckets and spades, rubber rings, summer hats of all descriptions, flags and the good old seaside windmills on sticks. I loved these and bought two and asked the seller to stick them out of the back of my rucksack. I was just like a big kid without a care in the world! And so, I continued along the front literally with the wind in my sails, feeling very joyful and thrilled to bits with my holiday so far. I took lots of photos as this was for the sake of happy memories to come and sure evidence I’d achieved an ambition. However, the fun wasn’t over yet.

I could see the Sealife Centre in the distance and planned to go there the following day. The famous, old Kursaal was also in that direction. For today, I was just admiring the views and feeling the vibes and energy of the place which, by then, was swarming with holiday makers. I could just about make out an attraction happening ahead with a queue of people waiting to take part. As I got nearer, a mischievous thought took shape in my mind. I took a photo of what was going on and then, cheekily, posted it on my Facebook page with the following caption (below) …

And now, for my next trick!!

Now, bearing in mind I’m a wheelchair user, this would have been impossible but I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with my friends and family! Well … one day … you never know…

More of my travels to come in Part 2

A Pot of Tea

[Photo credit Deposit Photos]

I went and had a pot of tea
And sitting there were Mum and me
With toast and orange marmalade
Just like Mum had always made

It felt so grand, us eating out
A special day, without a doubt
We sat and talked till half-past-two
The waitress brought another brew

A red tea cosy on the pot
The tea inside was steaming hot
We let it cool a little bit
I fancied cake, I must admit

A slice of orange chiffon cake
Complete with bits of chocolate Flake
Served with a jug of double cream
It was delicious, quite a dream

We laughed and ate till half-past-four
We should be headed for the door
But I was loathed to leave the scene
This place where Mum and I had been

I stopped and thought and shed some tears
It’s now been over six full years
My reason is so very plain
I so wish Mum were here again.